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How to Grow an IFB Preacher, From Seed to Harvest


The path to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pulpit takes many roads. Some IFB preachers had a crisis in their adult lives, got saved, felt the call of God to the ministry, went to Bible college, and then started pastoring a church. Men with substance abuse problems or horn dog tendencies sometimes take this path. I met a number of preachers who were alcoholics or drug addicts before entering the ministry. Others were fornicators and adulterers who thought the ministry would cure them of their sexual urges. As you might imagine, some of these men found that Jesus was no match for their libido.

Other IFB preachers were “backslidden,” got right with God, felt the call of God to the ministry, went to Bible college, and then started pastoring a church. My father-in-law was one such man. At the age of thirty-five, Dad felt God telling him that he had one last chance to get right with God and enter the ministry. Dad heeded God’s call, quit his ten-year job on the railroad, and moved to Pontiac, Michigan to attend Midwestern Baptist College. Four years later, Dad graduated from Midwestern and spent the next few decades working in God’s vineyard as an evangelist, assistant pastor, pastor, and leading church services for nursing homes.

Some men follow either of these roads, except they skip the college part, entering the ministry without any formal training. The only theological training some IFB preachers have is that they can read the King James Bible. Some of the worst preaching I ever heard was by men who thought college and reading any other book but the KJV was unnecessary — a waste of time. These men believe all they need is the Holy Spirit. Years ago, I heard one such man at an IFB church in Lancaster, Ohio. This man thought preaching was reading the text, going verse by verse, and sharing his personal opinion.

Many IFB preachers were what I call seed-to-harvest preachers. These men were raised in IFB homes, attended IFB churches, were active in IFB youth groups, and were either homeschooled or attended IFB schools. After being saved, often as a child, getting baptized, rededicating their lives as teenagers, and acknowledging the call of God on their lives, these young men left home to study for the ministry at IFB or IFB friendly schools such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Crown College of the Bible, Baptist Bible College, Midwestern Baptist College, Hyles-Anderson College, West Coast Baptist Bible College, Trinity Baptist College, Maranatha Baptist University, Heartland Baptist Bible College, Golden State Baptist Bible College, Faith Baptist Bible College, along with a plethora of church-based Bible institutes. All of these schools exist for the express purpose of preparing men to pastor IFB churches. They may offer other programs, but their focus is on training the next generation of “preacher boys” (and providing women for them to marry).

Seed-to-harvest preachers are typically born to devout IFB parents. Their lives are dominated by the church. I can’t emphasize this point enough. My parents were saved at an IFB church in San Diego, California when I was five. From that time forward, I was in church every time the doors were open: Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, youth group, midweek service, revivals, conferences, special prayer meetings, visitation, bus visitation, youth rallies, special youth events, and vacation Bible school. I also played on the church’s softball and basketball teams. When “work days” at the church were announced, I was there. After my call to the ministry, I would skip school so I could attend the Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings that were held at the church I was attending at the time.

Socially, most of my friends belonged to the same church as I did. Playing sports did allow me the opportunity to have “worldly” friends, but all of my close friends were fellow church members. I only dated “likeminded” girls; girls who either attended the same church I did or attended other IFB churches. I never dated anyone outside of the church. (Such relationships were frowned upon. Be not unequally yoked with the world, the Bible says.)

While I attended a public school, many seed-to-harvest preachers are either homeschooled or attend a Christian school. It is in these settings that these preachers-to-be are deeply indoctrinated in the one true faith. My six children spent virtually every day of their lives in a world where everything revolved around God/Jesus/Bible/Church. The seed-to-harvest preacher spends most of his formative years immersed in the church and the Bible.

Seed-to-harvest preachers learned that being a preacher is best job in the world. They heard pastors tell them that was no greater job than preaching the gospel, saving souls, and building churches. I heard several preachers say that it would be a step down for them to become President.

Seed-to-harvest preachers quickly learned that being a preacher is a place of honor and prominence, a place of love and respect. They likely heard sermons imploring them to become pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. This thinking was reinforced by their youth pastors. Pastors often view “men called to the ministry” much as a gunslinger does after winning a gunfight. Every time a young man enters the ministry, pastors put another notch on their gospel gun. I’ve heard numerous preachers brag about how many men were called to preach under their ministry.

Now take a step back and look at what I have written. What do you see? Indoctrination. Conditioning. Manipulation. Young, impressionable men becoming a means to an end. My oldest son, Jason, was on the seed-to-harvest path. Everyone expected him to become an IFB preacher just like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. In the spring of Jason’s senior year, he was accepted to study for the ministry at Pensacola Christian College. PCC offered free tuition for pastors’ children. Many IFB schools do the same, using the free tuition as a way to draw other students from the church to the college.

Jason began having doubts about his salvation. I found this strange because he was a rock-solid Christian, devoted to Jesus and the church. I remember sitting down with Jason and talking with him about his doubts. What I learned is that he felt pressured to join the family business; that he really didn’t want to be a preacher. As soon as I told him he didn’t have to be a preacher, his “doubts” disappeared. For years after, his IFB grandfather would publicly lament the fact that “Jake” didn’t become a preacher. While I was disappointed that he didn’t want to follow in my footsteps, I knew that the ministry wasn’t for everyone.

At the age of five, I told my mom that I wanted to be a preacher. I would gather the neighborhood kids together in the backyard and preach to them. At the age of fifteen, I was saved, baptized, and called to preach. Several weeks later, under the tutelage of Bruce Turner (please see Dear Bruce Turner), I preached my first sermon at the Sunday night youth group meeting. I would preach my last sermon thirty-three years later. All told, I preached over 4,000 sermons.

As I look at my life, I can see how my parents, pastors, and other Christians led me down the path that led to the pulpit. Everything in my life led to the ministry. While I worked numerous “secular” jobs over the years, I saw them as a means to an end, a way for me to make money so I could keep pastoring churches.

Could I have chosen another path? I doubt it. The indoctrination, conditioning, and control was such that I never even entertained a different path. After I married Polly, who was also raised in an IFB home, the die was set. It wasn’t until my late forties that I saw a different path for me. I left the ministry in 2005, and three years later, I left Christianity altogether. I have spent the past fourteen years charting a new path for my life, one where I am the captain, one where my choices are endless (within the constraints of my failing health and limited resources).

Were you a seed-to-harvest preacher? Does what I write in this post ring true to you? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    I’m not a seed-to-harvest preacher. I never have been a preacher of any type. I think that from learning of one local example of a so-called IFB pastor that external influences or experiences well past childhood may condition people into thinking they are qualified to become pastors when they are not qualified to be such. the example I am going to attempt to give you is of a person about five years older than myself. I did not know the man that well because of the age difference. His father died a few months before his eleventh birthday and his father was listed in the obituary as a member of the now defunct evangelical united brethren church. His mother remarried and and I believe the family went to Methodist pattern churches afterwards. Despite the remarriage lasting longer than the first marriage things were not good with all of the four children of the family. The third oldest child soon developed a bad reputation of being a pretty serious abuser of illegal drugs and alcohol. He married some woman while in his early twenties and he managed to father at least a couple of children. An infant daughter of this man and his wife died within a few months of her birth. The death occurred in January of 1984. The wife was Roman Catholic so the funeral was done in the Catholic Church and the daughter was buried in a Catholic cemetery. Despite this the bereaved father had a brother who attended Calvary Baptist Church in Normal, Illinois. This man went to Calvary Baptist soon after his daughter’s death. During the altar call segment of the service he ran down the aisle announcing that he needed to be saved. He and his wife then started attending the Fundamentalist Baptist Church pastored by Ralph Wingate JR. About a decade or so later this man went up to Maranatha Bible Baptist College in Watertown Wisconsin and I believe he managed to somehow get a bachelor’s degree from that college around the year 2000. The first and only church he ever pastored was his hometown American Baptist Churches USA soon after he completed his education at Maranatha Bible Baptist College. Soon after he became the pastor there he he withdrew the congregation from the ABC-USA denomination and they were now Independent Baptist. A couple of years later that church dropped the name Baptist and they were now a non-denominational church. The Congregation had attracted more members but many of them were from other communities. The congregation bought land south of town and they had a new church building finished in 2009. However the pastor wound up having to resign late in 2014 due to extramarital affairs being discovered. This man was not brought up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist home so other factors must have come into play is his decision to try to become a pastor.

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    The fundamentalist Christian school I attended from 5th-12th grade was a seed to harvest school, now that I understand what that means. The school employed several pastors as faculty, pastors who didn’t have churches of their own at the time. At least one son of these pastor/teachers was expected to become a pastor, though few did. Other students at school were sons of pastors who didn’t teach at the school. I do find it interesting that so few guys from the school became pastors. I winder if being that close to it and seeing from the inside was a turn off.

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    I have taken to clicking on the church links in many of Bruce’s posts to see just what the core principles and pastor backgrounds of these places are. I thought I attended pretty conservative Baptist and evangelical churches most of my life, but these IFBs would probably consider my churches apostate. We actually read the NIV and NASB; the pastors even preached from those versions!!

    More interesting are these fundamentalist pastors’ college/seminary backgrounds. Most attended non-accredited (like Bruce’s Midwestern) Bible colleges. Actually, some schools did claim accreditation from the Holy Spirit, which I guess carries some weight. I wonder how they applied for it? Did God send them a certificate?

    Following the trail of breadcrumbs, I have looked at many of those colleges, read their statements of belief, values, and course catalogs. They are factories to create carbon copy images of same preacher/minister over and over and over. It boggles the mind that these are the same people claiming public education indoctrinates the young. They are totally blind to their hypocrisy.

    Reading some of the courses descriptions, it looks like a lot of these college-level bible classes are the same sermons I got from the pulpits, given in one semester instead of a year of Sundays. Most of the schools don’t even seem to teach students how to balance a checkbook, but they have courses for women titled “The Preacher’s Wife”.

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